One year on

A year ago, I was preparing my presentation for researchED Sydney. It was exciting; I had never before given a presentation on the ideas that I write about. But it was also a fateful time.

Me and Tom B

In February 2015, I had two blogs. This blog was hardly read. I used it mainly to post quite dry pieces and to link to my columns for the TES. My other blog, “Webs of Substance” (WoS), was written under a pseudonym and was far more popular. The associated Twitter account had over 3000 followers whereas I had about 400 in my own right.

On reflection, WoS had turned into a bit of a monster. I set it up in order to shout into the void. I didn’t expect anyone to be listening. But then Old Andrew tweeted a link to a post on textbooks and I started to attract a readership. It was pseudonymous because I just wanted to be able to throw ideas around without worrying whether they might be seen as somehow representing my school. This is a good idea for bloggers who are finding their feet but, to be honest, it was hardly necessary for me. Most of my posts were technical or philosophical and rarely related to anything that happened at work.

When I spoke in Sydney, a figure sat silently in the audience, making connections. There are not many Australian teachers on social media who say what I say. He worked out that I was the author of WoS and started to troll me on Twitter about it. Then he shared this revelation with anyone who he saw me disagreeing with on Twitter. It became the story – a useful ad hominem.

I pulled the plug on WoS because I felt like I had to. And I didn’t like it much. I had given life to something that mattered to me and now I had killed it.

The year went on. I continued blogging in the same vein, posting on this site instead. I gained followers on Twitter and the loss of WoS started to bother me less. Opportunities began to arise. This year I will be speaking at the Telegraph Festival of Education at Wellington College, England, and it’s hard to imagine how I would have been able to do that as an anonymous blogger. If you’re around then come and say, ‘Hello’. I won’t be able to go out for a drink or a meal, however, because I will be in charge of sixteen youngsters who are attending the festival’s student programme.

There are other events in the offing that are yet to be announced so watch this space.

And I have written an ebook, “Ouroboros”. It’s going better than I had hoped; I’ve sold over 70 copies so far, even though it is only available through my blog site (here, if you’re interested) and it’s attracted a couple of positive reviews from David Didau and Owen Carter. Ouroboros now has a goodreads page that, at the time of writing, has no reviews or ratings at all so please feel free to vent your spleen at what a shocking waste of money it is. I also have a new facebook page.

In the debit column, I have been dropped by the TES but I am grateful to them for giving me the opportunity to write some interesting pieces which I will continue to link to from my homepage. My ambition for the next twelve months is to get something published in the Australian press. I’m not sure how I’ll go with that but it’s worth having a try. And if anyone from the Guardian or Telegraph is reading this then get in touch.

We had a sort-of wake for Harry Webb. A dinner party that had already been planned gave us the opportunity to toast the old guy and see him on his way. I wasn’t sure how it would turn-out. It seems to have turned-out just fine.


7 thoughts on “One year on

  1. I had the same dual blog experience, and I came to the same conclusion. Now I’m eagerly awaiting retirement to say some of the things I really think about my experiences in education but can’t say without getting in trouble, which is a problem in itself.

  2. Nick says:

    I do miss Harry but you have continued his tradition. I can only assume that you keep his body in your basement and occasionally gnaw on his skull for inspiration. I first encountered Harry when my child started school and I was told about the brave new world of education that my district was initiating which made little sense to me. It was people like Harry, David Dideu, Daniel Willingham and, of course, Andrew Old that really seemed to discuss the mechanisms behind the discussions rather than just rely on yelling “critical thinking” or “authentic” really loud. Thank you for being one of the adults in the room.

    BTW, there was a comment on your old blog from Dylan Wiliam where he discusses the word “authentic” as a category mistake. Any chance of a blog Incorporating that? comment? We are up to our needs with “Authentic” at the moment.

  3. Pingback: Book Review: ‘Ouroboros’ by Greg Ashman | A Total Ed Case

  4. Pingback: Filling the Pail - Top Ten Teacher

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